With Jay Cutler down, Bears calling for backup
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist October 20, 2013 9:07PM
Who do you like better at Bears' QB?
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- BEAR MARKET: What’s rising and falling in Week 7
- BEARS 3-AND-OUT: A missed catch, Griffin takes off, keeping focus
- Sad words for Bears: ‘It’s a groin,’ as in Jay Cutler’s
- Bears’ Lance Briggs out 6 weeks
Updated: October 21, 2013 11:29AM
LANDOVER, Md. — There are two weeks before the Bears’ next game, which might be enough time for quarterback Jay Cutler’s injured groin to heal.
But a groin is a, uh, dicey thing. And to this observer, it looked as though Cutler got more than some ligaments stretched when he was sacked in the second quarter Sunday by the Redskins’ Chris Baker, a 333-pound defensive lineman.
We’ll let the pain go where it may. But suffice it to say it might be the Josh McCown Show for a spell.
Backup McCown, who has attempted only slightly more passes in the last seven years (271) than Cutler completed last season (255), is now the guy. He came in when Cutler went down and out at FedEx Field and, lo and behold, didn’t line up backward or try to take a snap from the guard.
He actually looked pretty good, considering the din was terrible and he had no time to introduce himself to the rest of the Bears’ first-team offense.
I’ll come right out and say it: He looked better than Cutler did. Maybe that’s not saying much, given that Cutler left with an 8.3 passer rating after going 3-for-8 for 28 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown. But McCown looked confident, poised, accurate and ready to rumble.
After the game, it was funny when McCown was asked what Cutler could do that he couldn’t. He responded by asking the questioner if he had seen Cutler throw a pass. A good chuckle broke out in the interview room.
McCown, 34, sees up close in practice what we see in games: Cutler brings it. This was a corner-nibbler paying homage to a fireballer, a curveballer praising Aroldis Chapman.
So we can add that McCown knows he is a modestly talented backup, a humble butler willing to wear the master’s robe until the master returns from the bath. We’re just hoping the master hasn’t drowned.
It’s not as though the 6-4, 214-pound McCown has a wimp arm. He just relies more on touch, on footwork, on extending plays to be successful. At least, that’s what we’ll guess he does because nobody has seen this guy do anything but hold the clipboard and pretend to be the opposing team’s quarterback each week.
Until Sunday. His stats were sweet: 14-for-20 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown, an excellent 119.6 passer rating and 33 rushing yards. Plus, no interceptions.
‘‘He took over the huddle, he took care of the football, he moved the team,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘He didn’t get much practice time. A backup never does.’’
So true. Especially for a guy such as McCown, who spent 2010 playing for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League and some time after that coaching high school kids.
So is he ready to take over if Cutler is out for a long time?
‘‘That’s the idea,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s why I’m here. Everything’s still in front of us.’’
Could be, but the Bears have lost three of their last four games. And if McCown were to go down, who’s next?
‘‘I don’t know,’’ said receiver Earl Bennett, who is rumored to be that guy.
Would he sub in?
‘‘If they call my number, I will,’’ he said.
Lord, let’s not go there. Not yet.
In his career, McCown has, as they say, modeled uniforms for the Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Panthers and Bears. He’s not a dolt. In fact, he’s well-liked by his teammates, a selfless, go-get-’em guy.
His scrambles were audacious and, yes, reckless. And effective. Two of his three runs (we won’t count his kneel-down at the end of the first half) went for first downs.
‘‘He led the way, man,’’ said receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught three passes from McCown. ‘‘We’ve got the best guy you wanna have at the No. 2 position. Josh, man, he’s really a captain on this team; he just doesn’t have the ‘C’ on his chest.’’
Easy there. If not the captain, how about a good corporal?
And, really, if the Bears’ defense can’t play better than it did against elusive Robert Griffin III, what difference is any quarterback going to make? Even Peyton Manning would have a hard time scoring 50 or more points every week.
Let’s give McCown his due: He’s tough, quick and experienced, and he knows the plays. He did well Sunday. Indeed, he brought the Bears back twice and could have won the game if the defense had dug in just once.
Trestman said McCown ‘‘functioned very well.’’
Still, let’s pray Cutler can function at all.